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Public protection agencies in Alameda County have been asked to absorb $38 million in cuts to help fix the county’s $113 million budget deficit — but Sheriff Charles Plummer is leading a revolt against the plan. The district attorney, public defender and the probation and sheriff’s departments shaved their budgets by $16 million last year, Plummer said, and enough is enough. “We are standing together; we are united,” said Plummer, who closed North County Jail during last year’s budget crisis. For the 2003-04 fiscal year, the county wants Plummer to cut $19 million from his nearly $200 million budget. And if other agencies have to bear the brunt of the budget ax, Plummer said, so be it. While DA Tom Orloff is less blunt, the prosecutor did say that any further cuts will jeopardize public safety. “The critical factor is: What’s the primary function of government? The first is to provide for public safety,” said Orloff, who has been asked to slash $5.3 million from his $42 million budget. Probation department spokeswoman Nina Ramsey said the county has asked her department to cut $8.5 million of $60 million that it gets from the general fund. Ramsey said the proposed cut would diminish the department’s ability to closely monitor adult offenders and further cut services for juveniles. “Money equals programs equals staff,” Ramsey said. “We are pretty bare bones now.” Public Defender Diane Bellas could not be reached for comment Monday. Department heads are expected to make their cases today at budget hearings, which could set the stage for a standoff with the Alameda County Board of Supervisors. Local governments across the state are asking department heads to weather another difficult budget year. And to make matters worse, the $113 million cut in Alameda’s public protection money is an optimistic figure, said Gail Steele, president of the Alameda county board. The state, which is facing a $40 billion deficit, is bound to ask counties to pick up the tab for services that it can’t afford to provide, she said. Part of the problem is the “public protection” and “public assistance” departments take the lion’s share of the county’s general fund money, explained Chris Gray, chief of staff for Supervisor Scott Haggerty. Other departments such as fire — which is also part of public protection but has revenue streams other than the county general fund — are less vulnerable to cuts. That means that public safety departments and social services are the first to be scrutinized in tough budget years. “Certain departments get hit over and over again because of the way the system works,” Gray said. Supervisors have asked that a total of $60 million be cut from health care programs and social service programs, county budget figures show. Steele said it’s not fair for social service and health programs to shoulder all of the cuts just because public protection departments take a hard line. Supervisors Alice Lai-Bitker, Scott Haggerty, Nate Miley and Keith Carson could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon. Although the sheriff and the DA are elected officials who can use their posts as a bully pulpit during budget negotiations, ultimately the Board of Supervisors will decide how much departments will do without. Steele suggested that if the sheriff or the other departments refuse to help the supervisors make cuts, county leaders would do it anyway. “I would rather do it with their participation,” she said, “than without it.” Plummer said he understands his tough budget stance may hurt social service programs. “I care deeply about people,” the sheriff said, “but during the budget, I have no friends. I don’t play with anyone.” County department heads are scheduled to submit proposed budgets in about two weeks.

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